<Monroe/>COMPUTE$ Has Arrived
By Mark Howell
“Everyone will remember this day,” announced John Padget at a press conference held yesterday, August 20, in the boardroom of Florida Keys Community College.
The former school superintendent and today’s vice-chair of Florida’s State Board of Education was accompanied by the college president, Jonathan Gueverra, and Monroe County School District Superintendent Mark Porter.
His news amounts to a very a big deal for the 3,000 students of the Florida Keys. Padget and his partner Jacob Dekker have pledged $100,000 toward a $400,000 initiative to that creates a “computing platform” of courses and certificates within the county’s school system.
It’s called <Monroe/>COMPUTE$ and the cybernetic format of the program’s name in print has been specially designed by local political consultant Damien Vantriglia. The program provides grants directly to all district students who successfully earn credentials in computer science during the 2014-15 school year.
Deep background to the initiative is this: Computer education in America today is dire. One hundred percent of China’s students are taught computer coding at school. In the U.S. it’s six percent. Ninety percent of U.S. schools do not teach computer science at all. In Florida, computer science is still an elective and not even a high-school credit.
“There are about 25,000 open computing jobs in Florida right now,” according to Padget. “Experts expect 1,000,000 more jobs than graduates in America by 2020, and that’s just six years away. Kids in middle and high school today just have to get into the computer science pipeline in order to be ready.” At the college level in 2013, there were only 1,833 computer science graduates with a BA or higher in all of Florida.
Grants to correct this situation through <Monroe/>COMPUTE$ will be made available to individual students via Microsoft training provided through Kura Hulanda, a private foundation supported by Padget and Dekker.
“Monroe County Schools are now on the move,” said Padget. “This year they will be offering courses enabling students to earn the Microsoft certificate MICRO069, and become a Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS). The grants being offered will reward each of the first 50 students to get their certificate with a check for $500. The next 50 will receive $400 each, then 50 at $300 each, 50 at $200 each, and 50 at $100 each. We’re looking to write checks totaling $75,000 to 250 middle- and high-school students, as soon as they pass the test.”
The Community College will also benefit. Said Dawn Ellis, computer science department head at FKCC: “We’ll be offering courses leading to individual certificates from CompTIA, Microsoft, Oracle and Web Design that are more advanced than the Microsoft MICRO069.”
“Students earning the first 100 certificates in the higher level courses on the state funding list will each receive $250,” added to Padget.
Both charter and traditional schools are included in the initiative, and all students will qualify for the grants.” “All schools will get their share of the performance-based state funding,” Padget emphasized.
The way it works is that the Florida Virtual School (FVS) offers 18 certificates from Microsoft, Adobe, Oracle, CompTIA, and Cisco. Those programs of study range from office specialist and cyber-security to database management and web development. The courses are free for all Florida K-12 students “who can start when they wish, learn at their own pace, anytime, and anyplace and test whenever they’re ready.”
“Adults in the community will earn a MICRO069 certificate in the program’s adult education program. “The cost will be $350,” explained Melanie Stefanowicz, head of the college’s Adult Education.
Concluded Superintendent Porter at Wednesday’s press conference: “This program is completely aligned with our efforts in the school district. It’s an easy partnership to get into.”
Confirmed Jonathan Gueverra of the college: “How do we create a seamless path for our students? Mark Porter and I agree. This is going to work.”
In conclusion: The general tenor of the press conference was an insistence that we all acquaint ourselves with computer coding, not simply computer keyboards but how computers work by code. It is crucial, especially, that young people, even children, learn how to write code, otherwise their choices will be limited in the world to come and they’ll be less in charge of their lives. “If you wait until you’re an adult, you’ll never learn how to do it,” declared the inventor of Dropbox in a video screened by Padget at the event. Warren Buffett agrees: “Any parent should expose their kids to code. If you wait till later, it’s harder to learn.”
(Go to code.org for a quick intro that’ll have you composing code in a couple of minutes. Over and out.)